Some of My Favorite People

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My status: Enchanted!

A few weeks ago, Ann Norman arrived on my doorstep. Of course, I was bursting with excitment to see her. My hands shook as I opened the box and I held my breathe as I pulled her out and unfolded her wrappings. My first impressions, in order, were: "She's beautiful and colorful and so full of little details and I love the border", then relief set in ("I didn't buy a fake antique, she's the real thing"), and finally joy that she was mine. I think I even hugged her!

May I introduce to you the handiwork of Miss Ann Norman!

Ann Norman - aged 13 years April 27, 1854
Stitched in cross-stitch on high count linen (40+ threads per inch) with silk threads.

When I began looking closely at her condition I could have cried. The linen is discolored and stained especially around the edges where it probably was covered by a wood frame, and distorted from being nailed to that @#$% backing board for so long. There are a few spots that I'm guessing may be stained with blood (perhaps where Ann poked herself with her needle?), one of the bottom corners appears to have been water damaged as the colors have bled, and there are a few small holes scattered around, but I am, never-the-less, simply enchanted by dear Ann!

Close up of top right corner where Ann escaped from one of those awful nails.

Seeing Ann up close, led me to think about the antique samplers that have survived over the years despite the handling, mounting, framing, and storing methods that were used. I am so thankful for the survivors! Perhaps they survived because they were stored away in a drawer, or the back of a closet, or up in an attic and forgotten for decades until someone discovered them again. And I'm thankful for the finders that didn't disregard them as just handiwork and of no value.   

Almost as soon as Ann arrived, I knew I wanted to stitch her again to see her as clean and as bright as she once was. I've been having so much fun pouring over her little, sometimes miscounted, stitches to chart her that I can hardly pull myself away. As I chart, I feel like I'm getting to know a bit about Ann. I'm sure she liked flowers, dogs and birds because she stitched lots of them into her sampler.

I imagine sampler-making wasn't one of Ann's favorite pastimes. For one thing, she wasn't particulary concerned about stitching on the vertical thread or allowing two threads for each stitch or space. Sometimes Ann left an even number of threads between stitches and sometimes an odd number. Another interesting tidbit I found is that when Ann discovered she stitched the wrong color or changed her mind about a color, she simply stitched over the original color with the new color. One of more obvious examples of this is in the lower section. Ann stitched two red birds and then went back and added a few black stitches on top of the red stitches (perhaps to make the birds look more like cardinals?). This young Ann didn't have the time or the inclination to create a perfect sampler. I think she was just itching to get it done and move on to more interesting activities. Ann was definitely not a frogger!     

I have no idea where Ann lived or even if she was American, but I would love to find out. The linen she used has a blue woven line along the right and left selvage edges. From edge to edge the linen is 13 inches wide. Does anyone know where this linen was from? Does anyone recognize anything about the sampler style that might place it?

I would very much appreciate any advice or leads to information about conservatively remounting and framing antiques samplers.

As always thanks for stopping by my little corner of the world. Wishing you a wonderful week and hope you find time for stitching!


Sweet Sue said...

Congrats on your special treasure Robin, you're sure to develop swivel neck in the next few days! Thirteen inches ~might~ indicate linen intended for a German/Dutch show towel, just a thought. Hopefully you'll hear from a more knowledgeable blogger with further comments. Some stitching days I would say Ann had the right idea of stitching with abandon for the joy of it, or perhaps she was an orphan lacking a nearby seamstress to tutor her in proper sampler etiquette. Either way, yes, your Ann is enchanting, enjoy! I can recommend a reputable conservation company for your consideration, email me if you like.

Deb said...

What a beautiful sampler! You have a wonderful treasure there. I love how you describe how she stitched it and not being a frogger (sounds like my kind of girl) :o) I have no idea where the sampler could be from or where the linen comes from but perhaps a conservationist would know. In any event, you have a wonderful piece.

Chris said...

Wonderful post Robin.
Ann is wonderful. I am looking forward to seeing what else you discover about her as you spend time recreating her.

valerie said...

Wonderful sampler acquisition. She looks lovely! I hope that you can kind out more about her!

Siobhán said...

What a beautiful sampler! I'm so glad that Ann's handiwork is with somebody who will treasure it. Maybe contact Marsha from Scarlet Letter, or post something on Legacy about remounting it, etc.? Just for an idea of where to go for it. I wish I could help out more! Keep us updated, please!

Karen said...

Robin, Teresa at Shakespeare's Peddler may also be a good resource for information about conservation.

Catherine said...

She's beautiful! I'm curious to know if you've found out some conservation and framing info. I have an old sampler as well.